Fibershed Indigo Project 2015 

CALL FOR VOLUNTEERS

paigegreen-indigo510-174

A call for volunteers to help plant over 2000 indigo seedlings in two days.  Many areas to help from planting to weeding to support crew & photo documentation.

We will be planting indigo seedlings between 440 foot rows of olive trees and creating a diverse polyculture on a biodynamic farm.

You will get a chance to visit a newly planted fiber & dye garden.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015  3 to 7 pm 

Thursday, May 21, 2015  3 to 7 pm

Location:  DaVero Winery & Farm

766 Westside Road, Healdsburg, CA, 95448

Parking: Please park in the unpaved area beyond the winery parking area, on the east side of the newly planted fiber & dye  garden.

If you choose to help plant, prepare to get dirty – both hands and clothes. Please bring your favorite hand trowel or weeding tool.

Learn more about the history & intent of the project by visitingfibershed.com.

Please RSVP via email, text, or phone message.

All support is welcome & needed for Indigo 2015.

Craig Wilkinson

cwilkinson2@earthlink.net  (707) 327-8411

A trip to Vermont last this week brought a wave of inspiration for natural dye color.  I taught a two-day class for a group of 17 who came from a range of places from across the United States.  The workshop was hosted by Twin Pond Retreat, and paid for by a grant by the Vermont Women’s Farm Foundation.  We spent the first day preparing our wool, organic cotton and other samples in sumac leaves, alum, rust water, bog mud, and  cow’s whey.

The sumac leaves were cooked lightly for just one half hour before entering the raw materials into the pot.  The tannin in the sumac was rich at this time of year.

Apple branches were pruned, (these came from a wild apple tree), we harvested lady bedstraw, goldenrod, madder, fresh indigo, black walnuts, purple basil, coreopsis, sumac berries, and I also brought sage from California to share with the group.  Other than the sage, everything had come from the garden.

The mordanting and preparation all took place on the first day… we prepped 7 dye vats in total.  It was an ambitious and exciting task to combine those colors with so many mordant options.  It would have likely taken a week to even begin to explore the color permutations.

That night we ate wood-fire pizzas as the dyes cured and the mordanted fibers dried. We ate and dyed from the same garden. Re-inforcing the food, fiber, and dye connection. It is true that what we eat, and what we wear are crucial pieces of the human ‘well-being’ puzzle, and the way we procure these necessities either hinders or enhances the existence of other species and our own progeny.

Madder root was harvested fresh from the garden (3yr. old roots), and we created a beautiful frothy red vat.

The samples of red are pulled out of the vat, almost ready, the red takes time, the heat must be slow and low.

The cool spectrum colors were abundant (which is rare), but we had tannin and iron reactions, purple basil, and fresh indigo to do the trick.

Some of the samples are lined up here, including a pH modified coreopsis strip, made yellow with vinegar and deep orange with wood ash.

The rug wool samples were divided up amongst the group.. light pink from bedstraw, red from madder, sky blue from fresh indigo, tan from sumac, gold from apple bark, and turquoise from purple basil, orange from coreopsis.

The pond was just a short walk from our dye station, and very swimmable.  The edge of the body of water housed an iron rich bog– which we also put to good use.

The bog was filled with conifer needles, and over time the decomposition had created an iron-rich concoction.

The cloth was originally rolled up tightly– here you can see it after it had been unrolled, it turned black all along the edges where it was exposed to the bog (in just one full day of soaking).  The inside of the cloth had been rolled up with maple leaves that had just begun to leave a tannin reaction that could be seen as a light green outline of the leaves in the center of the fabric… (given more time the leaf imprints would have been black.)

At the end of the last day the sun began to set and the samples were collected in the last remaining light. Our group was hard-working and compiled a lovely collection of garden colors.

Our wool yarns illuminate the rainbow that came from the Twin Pond Garden.  A beautiful array of botanic color.

Thank you Jennifer Steckler and Twin Pond for your incredible Vermont hospitality– and for nurturing such a special place on this planet.. and thank you Sierra Reading for your incredible work and teaching skills!  What an outstanding and deeply inspired event!

Farm Alley

July 21, 2012

Farm Alley in Lagunitas hosted a beautiful week of ‘from the ground-up’ textile education, with special surprise visits from some of our local Fibershed talent!  We all loved the cashmere goats, who romped around with the children all week and received so many formal names  its hard to say what the children decided on.  I think this little one ended up as ‘Carmel’.  The goats came from Mary Pettis-Sarley’s ranch for  our week of fiber education.

We also had a visit from ‘Peter’ the very relaxed and easy going angora rabbit, who was given a ride to camp by his farmer, Allison Arnold.  Peter relaxed in the shade of the oak grove and enjoyed a stream of loving caresses and hair brushing.

Allison had the children give Peter a haircut and then she showed them how to spin his fiber into yarn.

Katherine Jolda came to our textile camp too and showed the children how to ride her bicycle powered drum carder. After creating a beautiful combed batt of wool from locally raised sheep the children learned to felt the fiber into small patches.

We harvested dye plants from our meandering wall of coreopsis that runs through an acre of meadow, like a curving water-way.

The children harvested enough to dye their sample fabrics and shirts.

They made bean bags with designer Amber Steinhauer from elder, black walnut, fennel and coreopsis dyed fabrics…

We created an impromptu form of ‘cornhole’ although we didn’t exactly have it set up in the traditional sense, everyone loved keeping score and tossing their homemade bean bags.

We kept the dye vats running over several days for the children to create and explore with.  Each color was generated by the children’s own work to process the plants.

Everyone enjoyed squishing elderberries between their fingers.. hammering the fallen walnut shells, and chopping up the long fennel stalks.


Each child’s afternoon activity was steeped with free time to weave on looms, paint with beets, tumeric, and clay, climb trees, and build relationships with the animals.

Kid goats and kid humans make great companions.

Our final day was spent making paper from old jeans and T-shirts with paper maker Michelle Wilson.. (the final chapter of our textile story).  “From the ground up textiles” have many lives.  The children were excited to see an alternative to making paper from trees.

Late Summer into Fall…

September 25, 2011

Beginning with a late summer workshop at the Regenerative Design Institute in Bolinas, California, we played with freshly harvested sage, coreopsis (bright orange), and an early harvest of toyon and coffeeberry… with a bit of sheep sorrel in the mix.

The class was focused on experimenting with seawater as a mordant.  We harvested from the ocean early in the morning and compared our results between the salty sea pre-treatments with the effects of alum and iron.  The seawater held its own.. the brightness of the dye vats was not diluted by the use of the ocean minerals.  One of the Fibershed designers– Ashley Brock (left) is seen with her indigo and cutch dyed tunic, and wool pendant.

Erin Reilly of the Regenerative Design Institute with Dustin Kahn (Fibershed’s marketplace creator), rinse samples in the newly renovated greenhouse.  The new space is so warm and perfectly lit for dye workshops, with a perfect amount of burners for all the dye vats!

Local wool yarns from Tennessee Valley in Southern Marin were dipped in the various dye pots as well as modified with wood ash from the wood burning stove.  This wonderful participant will be going back to her Waldorf school with new recipes for the children to try–(such a joy to teach other teachers, knowing the plant recipes will travel through the generations and other institutions).

A botanic experiment in the works with a father and daughter duo.

It was off to Pennsylvania not long after enjoying the coastal beauty of Northern California.  Amish country awaited.  Rolling cultivated hills, covered in green, dappled with goldenrod, poke and elderberry, a wonder for any dye loving human being.

The Western Pennsylvania landscape is beautifully maintained by the Amish, a fully remarkable society of people who have made a very strong commitment to a set of values that harken to pre-industrial past.

The workshop took place at the Nature Center at Westminster College.  Professors from various disciplines have come together in the name of a new and powerful environmental studies program, I came to teach and support their endeavor– by bringing the sciences and the arts together via natural dye making.  The dinner conversations wove through subjects of Robert Hass, banning poly bisphenol, protecting fresh water resources, and the joys of living in such a grounded small American town.

Pokeberry bliss…. the color is so beautiful, the plant so generous.. we dubbed it, our ‘North American cochineal.’

 A black-eyed susan sits above a coreopsis dyed cotton with stripes of printed homemade alum acetate.  Students loved using their magnetic stirrers and following simple ‘green’ chemistry instructions to create their own bonding agents.

Fingers and hands stained…..

The subtle effects of an acetate and leaf print on a coreopsis cotton dipped in a pH modifier of ash and water.

Thank you Westminster, Peggy Cox, and all the organizers, students, and participants who created such an incredible foundation for a wonderful series of classes and talks.  I am forever changed having been exposed to this peaceful place.

Farm Alley

August 5, 2011

Farm Alley classes brought the artisan production of food, clothing, and shelter to many children this summer.  During three, one-week sessions, we kept extremely busy with many homegrown activities, harvesting wild foods, sewing clothes, climbing in the orchard, constructing shelters, and creating our own garden variety dyes.

A well made and dyed shirt, accompanied by a lot of wool… ready for the knitting needles!

The work cart became a vehicle…. moving with slope and gravity, the activity became a favorite.

The indigo and distaff apron went home a little damp, but it was to hard to resist wearing it out the door…

During our last and final week of food focused activity, we made plum-honey-blackberry soda with wild yeast, and toured local food farms and gardens that line the country road we call…. Farm Alley.

Here is our wholewheat short-bread covered in blackberry, stevia and tumeric dyed icing– adorned with sprinkles of fennel seed, dried orange, violets, hibiscus and rose petals…

The cotton fabric we used to squeeze and strain our naturally fermented soda held a temporary and beautiful shade of orange and pink.

The plum and blackberry soda was presented at the children’s farm stand on our last day of our last week of classes–sitting atop an onion and plum leaf dyed cotton swath of cotton.

We also made fruit leather from apples, figs, and blackberries.  The children explored how to remove water from our wet mash– we tried three experiments– the sun, the oven and dehydrator.

 The sun won… the most direct, and least impacting form of energy dried our fruit leather faster than the oven or the dehydrator.

 Our rust experiments carried over through two weeks of class.  The sun cooked the iron objects in our water bath– providing a rich and smelly dye and mordant– all in one.  We overdyed the cloth in our plum and onion water creating a range of earthy tones.

The farm stand– housing all of the week’s food adventures.  Sun tea made from lemon verbena was served with sun-dried fruit leather, naturally fermented soda, blackberry preserves, naturally leavened bread, flowers from Mt. Barnaby Farm (where we visited earlier in the week), and whole wheat naturally adorned short bread.

The weeks passed by quickly and were an inspiration to us all– one of the young participants made a book inspired by her good times.

Thank you also to Kaiku, Mr. Peabody, Figellius, and Princess I-ching (the very sweet and lovely resident goats and lambs) who played with the children every day.  They seemed to have as much energy as the young humans– running jumping, chasing, snacking… they were excellent playmates for us all.

The spring dye season began at the Filoli Estate in Woodside this year.  Expansive meadows, riparian ecosystems, oak studded woodlands… a perfect place for our first and semi-rainy day of dye work.

We painted with crushed stone and fruit inks… and then immersed our work in dye vats of the season.

The water laden plants created a soft palate whose tones looked so much like our surroundings.

The experiments continued throughout the afternoon, the playful samples kept coming…

The following week, I was off to the schools.. this lovely piece was done by an 8th grade crew working on re-purposing their thrift store finds during a week of Eco-chic explorations.

These T-shirts were in their first phase of being refurbished… the students used shibori techniques with tongue depressors and coffee stirrers.  Next step: embroidery, and sewing.

The whole collection, inspired from the spring recipe for Logwood!

Gorgeous colors came from our Bay Area Discovery Museum dye day– the bright yellow emerged from distaff dye pots.  Every child’s favorite color!  It also happens to be a species that our open space districts, national parks, and other land management agencies are spraying with herbicides to remove… I much prefer dye making from such a plant.  I recommend the master dye bath recipe, as well as an alkaline after bath.  

Into the distaff dye pot went our little flags.

Out came the brightest yellow!  Everyone was so pleased.

We pounded colors from our cultivated gardens into our distaff colored fabric swatches.  We used the spring dye starter recipe from the new book Harvesting Color.  This particular project is perfect for children and adults seem to love it too.

The end result…. little pounded distaff dyed cloths!
More spring dyes to come… with these late spring rains, their will be so much to harvest!

The Art of Native Ink

April 24, 2011

The first dye series of its kind was taught at the Regenerative Design Institute this Spring– classes steeped in processes created from the very landscape surrounding our dye pots and ink vats.  Coffeeberry, Toyon, and Coyote Brush were harvested by our team of eco-art explorers.

We began on a rainy day for our harvest… we gave each plant a clean-up and nice little prune.

We made our modifiers and mordants through the crushing of galls from our native black oak.  A beautiful and renewable binding agent.

The copper pots were put to good use to patina our colors…. they have masterful results with the native plants.

We began to experiment with home made screens– images originally drawn by an artist and designer friend, Sierra Reading of the California College of the Arts.  The images of Pokeberry and Black Walnut (both dye plants), looked quite beautiful in our coffeeberry ink.

The Pokeberry image was created with coffeeberry ink on a toyon dyed cotton fabric

A lovely hand-cut printing block was used to make this design.

The class was intently creative….

Painting leaves proved to be an exquisite way to print…

We shared our blocks and leaves with one another.

We also created some gorgeous prints without the use of blocks– just using bay leaf, eucalyptus, rubber bands, and iron rich waters.

Thank you to all of the class members– your art was and is an inspiration!

Thank you to Michael Keefe for your continuous stream of good photography and support:

For more pics of our workshop:  See the Smug Mug Site